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Introduction > Making the Change > What is Assertiveness > Knowing the Difference > Asserting Yourself > Role Playing > Being Assertive > Conclusion

Tips for Behaving Less Aggressively

If you want to be assertive but are concerned that others may find you too aggressive (or others have told you that you are too aggressive), here are some recommendations for turning aggressive behavior into assertive behavior.

Give others a chance to speak.

It's important to express yourself, but if you're the only one speaking or you constantly control conversations, you may not be giving others the chance to express themselves.

Respect others' opinions.

You may disagree with other people's opinions (and some of them may be outrageous!), but everyone has a right to their opinion and the right to express it. If you disagree with someone, try to discuss your differences rationally.

Be diplomatic.

Expressing your opinion is important, but not always at the expense of others. If you know what you are going to say could be painful, yet you feel it still needs to be said, try:

Saying it in a kinder way (for example, "I disagree" instead of "You're wrong");

Cushioning your comment with a compliment (for example, "Mary has had some great ideas, but I just don't think this one will work" instead of "That's stupid"); or

Recognizing it's a difficult topic and handling it discreetly (for example, "You know, I really don't want to hurt your feelings, but I think you should know ... ")

Choose assertive (not aggressive) language.

Focus on specific behavior and facts instead of opinions (for example, "These documents weren't filed in order" instead of "You're sloppy and disorganized")

Avoid exaggerations (for example, "You were late for the third time this week" instead of "You're never on time")

Focus on "I" not "You" language (for example, "I would like a chance to say something" instead of "You're always interrupting")

Avoid bullying and demanding behavior.

When making requests, avoid phrases that may make people feel bullied like "you must" or "you have to" and focus on language like "I think it would be better if ... " Also, think about what you are asking of others -- are your requests reasonable, or are they are unrealistic, unfair or selfish?

Avoid physically aggressive behavior.

Behavior such as glaring, shouting, slamming doors, throwing things, or invading others' personal space (for example by speaking 'in their face', pointing or jabbing them, or grabbing their arm) is physically aggressive. This behavior both scares and alienates people. No matter how angry or passionate you are about an issue, it is important to exercise physical control. Others won't respect you if your behavior indicates that you don't respect them.

Next: Asserting Yourself in Important Situations

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